How to Fix a Milky Clear Coat on Your Car

A milky clear coat on your car can be really disappointing after all the effort you put into the process. You’ve already gone through sanding down the old paint, repainting as carefully as possible to avoid any bubbles or smears and applying the clear coat. So, how can you remove this milky coat from your car surface?

When applied in areas with excess humidity or in high or low temperatures, your clear coat can end up looking milky when it dries. To fix this, you have four main options:

  • Wet sanding and buffing
  • Sand the Clear Coat Down and Reapply
  • The olive oil method
  • Use a heat gun

The rest of this article will cover exactly why a milky clear coat may occur and how to avoid it. Finally, if you end up with a milky clear coat despite all your precautions, this article will provide a few different methods that may help to correct it.

Why Does a Milky Clear Coat Occur?

The main reason that a milky clear coat occurs is that it was applied when there was too much humidity in the environment. It can also happen if you apply the clear coat when the temperature is significantly higher or lower than room temperature. 

When you read the instructions for applying a clear coat, you’ll notice that it says to apply it at room temperature and with zero humidity. That’s because either of these conditions can cause your clear coat to go cloudy.

Humidity causes the clear coat to appear milky because there’s a layer of moisture on the car. When you apply the clear coat over that layer of moisture, it creates a milky or cloudy appearance.

That’s why if you go to professional car painters, you’ll notice that their shop is full of dehumidifiers. To get a clean, clear coat, you want as little humidity as possible. This way, you can prevent the milky clear coat from the get go.

How to Fix Milky Clear Coat: Possible Solutions

Keep in mind that once you’ve applied your clear coat, it’ll be very difficult to change it. After all, your clear coat is made to protect your car; it’s not going to come off easily. However, even if your clear coat is already set and dried, there are a couple of things you can do to correct it.

The most common suggestion for fixing your milky clear coat is wet sanding it several times then reapplying the clear coat. Some less popular solutions include using olive oil to remove impurities, simply sanding the clear coat off, and starting over.

1. Wet Sanding and Buffing

The most popular option to correct the milky clear coat on your car is wet sanding it several times then buffing it before reapplying the clear coat. This method will take the longest and you’ll likely need to do it over several days, but it has the highest success rate in removing milkiness from the clear coat.

To wet sand your car, you’ll first take all of your sandpaper and soak it in clean water for up to an hour. You want to make sure it’s thoroughly saturated, as the water will help lubricate the sandpaper and give you a clean finish. You’ll also want to have a spray bottle on hand to ensure the surface of the car remains wet during the entire sanding process.

You’ll start off with 400 grit sandpaper and slowly work your way to 1,200 grit sandpaper. This will make sure that the pattern of scratches is even so you can have a clean finish once you’re done. Make sure you’re not penetrating all the way through the clear coat as you’re sanding. The clear coat should have a dry, chalky appearance when you’re done sanding.

Once you’re done sanding, you’ll want to buff the car with polish and either an electric buffer or a foam pad. Just make sure to use the electric buffer at a low speed to not further damage the car.

After you’re finished sanding and buffing, leave your car for several days to allow it to dry thoroughly. Then clean the vehicle thoroughly, move it inside to a room temperature area with no humidity, and you can begin to reapply the clear coat.

You may also like: How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Car Buffed and Polished?

2. Sand the Clear Coat Down and Reapply

The next option that you have to correct your milky clear coat is to simply sand it down and start over. It isn’t the most popular option because it requires quite a bit of work and requires you to dedicate lots of time to sanding everything down and, because you’re not wet sanding or polishing, you won’t get as smooth of results.

To do this, you’ll first want to get really fine sandpaper, ideally 200 grit or above, and simply start sanding away. Use an electric sander to keep the pressure even. This will help prevent any arm fatigue that could affect how evenly you’re sanding the clear coat down.

Just like with the wet sanding, make sure you’re not completely penetrating the clear coat, or you’ll risk damaging the paint underneath. You just want to sand off the surface layer of the clear coat to get a good base to start over with. By the time you’re done, the clear coat should be of an even thickness and should appear chalky.

Once you’re done sanding, you should clean the surface of the car thoroughly, allow it to dry, then move it inside to a humidity and temperature-controlled environment to begin the clear coat application process once more.

3. The Olive Oil Method

Many anecdotally recommend this method, and while it’s rarely officially recommended by dealerships or detail shops, many swear by it.

The idea behind the olive oil method is that by applying olive oil to the clear coat, you can remove any impurities that may be marring the clarity of the clear coat.

To use this method, apply a layer of olive oil all over your milky clear coat and let it sit. After giving it enough time you’ll rinse the olive oil off—unfortunately, it seems like hardly anyone can agree on exactly how long it should sit for. Then dry the car, prep it in the appropriate environment, and apply another layer of clear coat.

If the method works, it should remove any impurities that were causing the milkiness in the first coat, so your second coat should go on clear.

It will probably be the least effective method as it doesn’t actually involve removing the milky clear coat, but if you have a bunch of olive oil laying around and don’t have the equipment to sand the car yourself, it’s worth a shot.

4. Use a Heat Gun

The final method you can use is using a heat gun to remove the milkiness from your clear coat. Remember that it’s really only practical for small patches of milky clear coat. If the entire clear coat is milky, then you’ll be better off wet sanding and buffing or sanding the clear coat and starting over.

To use this method, you’ll first need to find a heat gun with multiple heat settings. Don’t use a heat gun where you can’t adjust the heat settings, or you’ll risk blistering the clear coat and pain.

First, clean the area to remove any impurities and make sure there’s no dust or anything else on the surface that could burn when using the heat gun. Once that’s done, turn your heat gun on the lowest setting possible and start moving it back and forth over the affected area.

Check out this useful YouTube video to see how to properly use a heat gun to remove milky coats:

Your goal with this method is to slowly heat all of the moisture out of the clear coat, which should remove the milkiness.

You need to use very low heat, which means it will take longer to heat all the moisture out, and you’ll need to move it back and forth the whole time to keep one area from overheating. If you put the heat gun on too high of a setting or keep it in the same spot the whole time, you’ll risk blistering the clear coat and paint, which will result in needing to redo both.

After some time, the milkiness should slowly fade away. Once it’s completely gone, you can take the heat off and leave it to cool in a room temperature environment with minimal humidity, so the problem doesn’t reoccur.

Key Takeaways

When you’re applying a clear coat to your car, you must do so in an area that’s approximately room temperature with close to zero humidity. If you don’t do this, humidity can get caught beneath the clear coat and create a milky appearance.

If your clear coat dries milky, you have four main options:

  • Wet Sanding and Buffing
  • Sanding the Clear Coat Down
  • The Olive Oil Method
  • Using a Heat Gun
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